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Homecoming Dance: Erykah Badu Returns to Arts Magnet to Raise Money (and, the Roof)

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State Sen. Royce West was there; so too Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, former mayoral candidate and "homeless czar" Tom Dunning, Arts District exec director Veletta Lill and an Alan Peppard's column worth of bold-faced bigwigs with deep pockets. The affair, spread over the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts campus and into a white tent set up in an across-the-street parking lot, was no small thing -- a glitzy, glam $500-a-pop fundraiser for the Arts Magnet.

Some attendees, though, would contribute thousands and thousands, and their reward was a homecoming hour-long performance by Erykah Badu in the high school's auditorium, followed by a parade led by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band -- down Flora, left on Routh, straight into New Orleans. Badu, performing for the first time in the Montgomery Arts Theater, put on nothing short of a rapturous spectacle -- didn't think it was possible to stuff that much light and sound into that small a space. And she left behind something quite special: Her 1997 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Grammy for the song "On & On," which will go on display in the school's lobby courtesy some very generous sponsors.

Flyinghorse, the event was called, the creation of the Arts Magnet Advisory Board, an attempt to spare the school some of the horrific cuts coming its way courtesy the state Legislature's budget shortfall. At present, the Dallas Independent School District is facing a best-case gutting of $86 to $150 million, and Booker T., like every other school in the district (and the state), will lose teachers -- half, at last look, 29. So they threw a party to ease the pain, figuratively and fiscally -- "a heck of a time to throw a party," said Lisa Holland, Arts Magnet's exec director.

Hmmm. Wonder if I can get Meat Loaf and Mike Nesmith to play Thomas Jefferson.

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